Blackhawks notebook: Kirby Dach reflects on first NHL goal; nobody reflects on Robin Lehner
“He was a big part of our team when he was here,” coach Jeremy Colliton said about Lehner. “But at the same time, it’s over. Our total focus is on beating Vegas, and that’s what we’re going to talk about.”
Rookie center Kirby Dach has fond memories of playing the Golden Knights this season.
After all, he scored his first NHL goal against them in his second career game Oct. 22.
Late in the first period, as defenseman Olli Maatta circled behind the net and out to the right faceoff circle, Dach found wide-open space to the left of the crease. Dach whiffed on Maatta’s pass with his stick, but he managed to deflect the puck into the net with his knee and erupted in an exuberant celebration.
‘‘I grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL, and two games in, you’ve got your first goal,’’ Dach said after the Hawks’ 2-1 shootout loss that night. ‘‘That’s pretty special. You take them however they come. For me, I’m not really too worried about scoring the pretty goals, as long as they go in.’’
Dach’s success against the Knights continued the next month, when he notched his first career two-point game — a goal and an assist — in the Hawks’ 5-3 victory Nov. 13.
That night was part of a seven-points-in-five-games outburst that represented Dach’s first substantial offensive step forward in the NHL. His goal came on an impressive three-on-two rush with Zack Smith and Ryan Carpenter. His first attempt was turned away, but he gathered the rebound and ripped it in.
‘‘The first one just went off my shin pad and in, so that’s that,’’ Dach said Sunday when asked about the two games. ‘‘The second time, I got a couple of good bounces and nice plays from linemates to help me out with those.’’
It doesn’t seem like last autumn has been on Dach’s mind much since learning of the Hawks-Knights playoff matchup.
‘‘It’s not about individual success right now,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s more about team success and winning those important games. Whether it’s getting points from me or being good on the defensive side of the puck or doing what it takes to win, that’s really the only thing that matters right now.’’
Lehner a taboo subject
The Hawks made it clear they’re not interested in talking about goalie Robin Lehner, as compelling as the storyline about the teammate-turned-opponent is.
‘‘He’s a part of their team and he’s a good player, but we’ve got a lot to worry about with [the Knights],’’ center Dylan Strome said. ‘‘We’ll do our best to score on him, but our main focus is on Vegas and the team as a whole.’’
Coach Jeremy Colliton was asked consecutive questions about Lehner and showed growing exasperation about the subject.
‘‘There’s turnover in the league; [it] changes every year,’’ Colliton said the first time. ‘‘I don’t think it’s that out of the ordinary that you’ll face an old teammate in the playoffs. Obviously, when we prepare for Vegas, he’s part of it. But we’re focused on their whole group.’’
The second time, he said: ‘‘Listen, he was a big part of our team when he was here. But at the same time, it’s over. Our total focus is on beating Vegas, and that’s what we’re going to talk about.’’